What? Kovakka (Gherkin) Chutney?

“What? Kovakka (Gherkin) Chutney?”

That was my reaction when my neighbor was telling me about this recipe. Soon she gave me some to taste and since then, I have become a huge fan of this chutney! Its simple, yummy and easy to make.

Back home, with mom working and the general time crunch in the mornings, we were brought up more on idli podi than on chutneys. Even now, I don’t feel the need for a chutney to go with dosa or idli. Harry dear, however loves to have a dip for his morning tiffin – one of the many reasons why I switched to cornflakes and bread in the mornings :D (not to mention getting up late).

I had made paneer masala dosa and this chutney tasted really good with it. So Harry got his wish and had a lovely meal that day. His support for this blog has become even more huge and he is encouraging (or threatening) his friends and colleagues to visit this site.  I guess he figures out that if no one visits this place, he will be back to his sambar and curry diet ;-)


Kovakka : 250 gms

Onion : 1 big, chopped fine

Tomato : 1, chopped fine (can be substituted with a small gooseberry sized tamarind)

Saunf (fennel seed) powder : 1 – 2 tsp

Red Chillies : 2-3

Salt to taste

Oil – 2 to 3 tsp


  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add the onions and cook till transparent.
  2. Add the tomato and let it cook for 2-3 minutes
  3. Add the gherkins/kovakka. Add about 1/4 cup water and cover and cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Let it cool.
  5. Grind in a mixie, with salt, chillies and perum jeera(saunf) powder.
  6. Serve with dosa or idli.

Easier Method:

  1. Microwave the onion and tomato with a teaspoon of oil for 3-4 minutes till cooked.
  2. Cover and microwave the kovakka separately for 4-5 minutes or till cooked.
  3. Once cool, grind everything together with salt, chillies and saunf powder.

The fennel seed powder (saunf powder) gives an amazing smell and flavor to this chutney. You can substitute kovakka with brinjal or lady’s finger too (I haven’t tried this yet, though).

Paneer Filling for Dosa


Dosa Batter

Onion : 1 big, chopped fine

Tomato : 1 or 2, chopped fine

Paneer : 200 gms, crumbled/grated

Green Chillies : 2 or 3, chopped

Ginger-garlic paste : 1 tsp

Salt : to taste

Oil : 2 tsp


  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add onions, green chillies and ginger garlic paste and saute till the onions turn transparent.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute till it gets cooked and pulpy.
  3. Add salt and crumbled paneer and mix thoroughly once. Remove from fire.
  4. Make a dosa and keep  1-2 tablespoon of filling inside.  Fold and serve with the kovakka chutney.

Popeye the Sailor Man

“I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, 
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. 
I’m strong to the finich 
Cause I eats me spinach. 
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.” 

This is the first thing that comes to me when I look at spinach.

I don’t make keerai as much as I would like to, as I hate cleaning it. The keerai/spinach bunch you get here is freshly picked and hence has the roots too. So unless you clean it thoroughly, you will end up eating ‘sand-y keerai’.

This time, my father cleaned and cut the leaves for me. I was planning to make a simple keerai thoran (dry curry with coconut). I started off confidently and soon after noticed that there is way too much water in it. In my hurry to cook , I had forgotten to let the leaves drain!! So instead of making a watery version of a dry curry, I switched modes and made Harry’s favorite puli keerai masial.

This puli keerai masial (spinach cooked with tamarind and mashed nicely) has been on Harry’s weekend menu for a long time. He hasn’t displayed any superhuman strength like Popeye yet,  but who knows – this weekend’s spinach dosage might just do the trick :-D!


Keerai/Amaranth/Spinach : 1 bunch, cleaned and chopped

Tamarind : a small gooseberry sized, soaked in water

Asafoetida : a pinch

Salt : to taste

Oil : 1 tsp

Mustard seeds : 1 tsp

Urad dal : 1 tsp

Dried Red Chillies : 1 or 2

Optional (But I did it anyway):

Coconut : 1/4 – 1/2 cup

Jeera/Cumin seeds : 1/2 tsp

Green chillies : 1 or 2


  1. Extract juice from the soaked tamarind or use 1 tsp tamarind paste.
  2. Cook the keerai in a heavy bottom kadai with 1/2 cup water, tamarind extract, salt and asafoetida.
  3. Mash nicely with a ladle while it is cooking.
  4. When the keerai is cooked and mashed nicely, keep aside.
  5. Heat oil in a small pan. Add mustard seeds.
  6. When it splutters, add urad dal.
  7. Add to the keerai masial and serve.


You can grind coconut (1/4 – 1/2 cup),  jeera (1 tsp) and green chillies(1 or 2) and add this mixure to the masial while its cooking.

 Easier version:

  1. Pressure cook the cleaned spinach with tamarind extract for 1 whistle and let it cool.
  2. Blend in a mixer (I prefer food processor with chopping blade).
  3. Heat oil in a pan. Add asafoetida and mustard seeds.
  4. Add urad dal, after mustard splutters.
  5. Add to the keerai masial and serve.

The Onion-Tomato Duo

When I first learnt cooking, almost all my cooking was based on onion and tomato!! Every now and then, potatoes would make an appearance.

There is so much you can do with tomatoes and onions. You can make tomato rice, tomato based yogurt, tomato puli kuzhambu, simple tomato side dish for chapattis, simple side dish for dosa/idli, prepare sauce for pizza, pasta ..the options are endless.

I didn’t do the grocery shopping for this week. So all that was left in the fridge was tomatoes. Luckily, there were some onions left. So I made tomato rice for lunch and served it with tomato raita. So you can see for yourself how many dishes can be made with one single simple recipe.


Onions : 1 big or 2 medium

Tomatoes : 5 medium

Green chillies : 2 or 3, per taste

Ginger : 1/2″ piece, chopped fine

Garlic : 4 pods, chopped fine

Salt : to taste

Turmeric Powder : 1/4 tsp

Oil : 1 -2 tsp


  1. Chop the onion, ginger, garlic finely. Chop the green chillies into small pieces.
  2. Dice the tomatoes.
  3. Heat oil. Add the chopped onions, chillies, ginger and garlic. Fry till onions become transparent.
  4. Add tomatoes, saute till it becomes soft. If it becomes too dry, you can add about 1/4 cup water.
  5. Add salt and turmeric powder and cook till the curry is slightly dry.

That is all to it!!!


  • Substitute 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli powder for green chillies.
  • You can add 1 tsp coriander powder and 1/4 tsp garam masala to this
  • Use ginger garlic paste instead of ginger and garlic.  You can skip it altogether too, if you don’t like it.
  • You can use butter or ghee, instead of oil, for a great flavor.
  • Basically, this is just onion and tomato cooked fine with a bit of salt and spice (chillies or chilli powder).
  • This mix can be used as a base for all vegetable side dishes. To this mix, add the cooked vegetable and cook for a few minutes and you are done!

I mixed  half of this paste with 2-3 cups of cooked rice. You need to adjust the salt according to your taste and ….

… Tomato rice is ready to serve.

To serve with the tomato rice, I mixed about 1-2 tbsp of onion-tomato with 1 cup yogurt. So you have a cool raita that goes well with the rice. This yogurt tastes yummy with plain rice too.

I still have some onion tomato mix left, I will adding some cooked cauliflower or potato to it and serve it as a side dish.

So here it is : A satisfying lunch with minimum effort :)

Eddoe Roast

  1. Well, do you know what “Eddoe” is?  I didn’t. Until I Google-d for CheppanKizhangu.

Since Eddoe sounds fancier than CheppanKizhangu, I thought I will name this post after it. I get to quiz you guys about it too.

Would I have known the names Eddoe or Taro, if it were not for internet? I guess not. It struck me how much we are dependent on the net for even the smallest thing. Want a decent Morkuzhambu recipe? Google it. Want to get the names of restaurants near your home?  Google it.

So lets all ‘O Podu’ for internet and the search engines.

And let me eat my Eddoe fry ;-)


Namma CheppanKizhangu : some 15 No.s (This serves two)

Oil : 2-3 tbsp

Chilli powder :  1/2 tsp

Coriander powder : 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder : 1/4 tsp

Salt : to taste


  1. Wash the root thoroughly in running water.
  2. Boil it in an open pan till it starts to soften. Or you can pressure cook it for one whistle.
  3. When its cooked, peel the skin and cut into small bite sized pieces.
  4. Heat oil in a wide non stick pan. Add the cheppankizhangu to it.
  5. Add salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder and coriander powder. Alternatively, you can add 1 tsp sambar powder.
  6. Fry in low flame about 10 minutes or until it is roasted nicely, carefully flipping each piece now and then.
  7. Serve with rice, if there is any left after tasting ;-)

Easier Method:

  1. Wash and pat dry the cheppankizhangu. Divide into two batches.
  2. Microwave each batch for 2 -3 minutes, until steam builds up.
  3. Wait for a minute or two till it cools down.
  4. Peel the skin, cut into bite sized pieces
  5. Follow from step #4 described above.


  • According to your Microwave wattage, adjust the cooking time.

  • Do not cook for a long time

  • Always be around while cooking in MW

  • If you are uncomfortable using a bag in MW, follow the stove top method.

Cooking Blunders

Eleven years back, when I came to Chennai, the only cooking I knew, was to boil water – that too if someone else lighted the stove for me.

I used to stay with a group of girls in an apartment near Thiruvanmiyur Beach. We used to cook dinner at home. The golden rule was that the first one to reach home should cook. Since my cooking knowledge was subzero, I used to ensure that I never reached home first :D. I would gladly do any other chore – like washing dishes, laying out the table, cleaning the kitchen – anything, other than cooking.

The first time I had to cook was when Miss M and Miss A, our primary cooks, had to go to some wedding reception. I came home first and was terrorized to find that I had to cook for myself and three other girls. After making frantic phone calls to friends and family, I decided to make a simple dal and brinjal (eggplant) saute to go with rice. As I started cutting vegetables, I really had a feeling that it will all end well.

I still remember vividly standing in the house, which was full of smoke, and offering the girls to buy pizza for them. The brinjal was completely burnt and I had no idea how to open the cooker. The girls, bless them, helped me out. That night we had dal with burnt brinjal in it, along with scrambled eggs.

And I bonded forever with them :)

I learnt the basics of cooking by watching the girls and slowly my level of confidence started rising. Soon after the brinjal-dal incident, one of the girls who was cooking at that time, had a visitor. She was making cucumber sambar. She asked me to cook the vegetable while she attended her visitor.

When she came to the kitchen later, she found me shallow frying the cucumbers in oil(sauteing) instead of cooking them in water!!! She laughed for a long long time before she told me the correct way to do it.

Another incident that comes to my mind is when I was making sambar. We used to make ‘cooker sambar’ where in you put all the ingredients – dal, vegetables and the tamarind extract- in the cooker and let it all pressure cook together. I was told to add water till the vegetable submerges. Well, I added an entire cooker full of water – and why? Cause the bloody vegetables float and I had to add water till it submerges!!!! Good god, the laughter at the house was loudest for this one!!!

You would expect me to pick up cooking in a few years time. But another incident that comes to my mind is the time when Miss M had gone abroad for 5-6 months. I had developed a huge love for cooking and I would lovingly cook for the new set of girls who had just moved in at that time. We were still following the ‘first come, first cook’ policy, so the girls would try to reach home first before me so that they can have a decent dinner. One of them even took half day off once, to reach home before me to stop me from cooking the onasadya :D.

And now, here I am – writing a food blog!!! Ironical, don’t you think?

Cake Marathon

In the past one week I had made around 5-6 layer cakes. I didn’t eat them all, I really didn’t.

The last one I made, the Thank you cake, was for Bebo’s school. Yesterday was his last day there . He is starting in a new school from the next academic year. He is really going to miss his current school!

And I am going to miss sleeping late in the mornings :( – the new school’s timings are too early for me.

The toughest thing about summer is not the heat, but the summer vacation. Managing an active four-year old at home is not an easy feat. It will be too hot to take him out and anyway, there are no parks or play areas near our place, where it is safe to let him play.

In my childhood days (god! I am old!), summer vacation meant pure joy. You come home from school, throw your bags aside and play as much as you want. Vacation was truly a break from studies.

Now a days, vacation translates into vacation classes. Violin class,  dance class, keyboard class, painting class, karate class, swimming class, drawing class etc etc. For the academically inclined, they can send their kids to hindi class, sloka class, french class or similar. But this one takes the cake – Cursive writing class for KG students!

And coming back to cakes, the one I made for Bebo’s nursery was an easy one. It uses oil, so you can do it without taking out your hand/stand mixer if you want to. Even the icing called for melted butter, though I went for the softened version.

Recipe for chocolate cake


All purpose flour(Maida) : 1 3/4 cups

Sugar : 2 cups

Cocoa Powder : 3/4 cup

Baking Powder : 1 1/2 tsp

Baking Soda : 1 1/2 tsp

Salt : 1 tsp

Milk : 1 cup

Vegetable Oil : 1/2 cup

Vanilla Extract : 2 tsp

Eggs : 2

Boiling Water : 1 cup


  1. Pre heat the oven to 350 Degree F/ 180 degree C.
  2. Grease and flour two 9″ round baking pans.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt) in a large bowl.
  4. Add the liquid ingredients (eggs, milk, oil and vanilla) to it.
  5. Beat on medium speed in a mixer for 2 minutes or beat well with a whisk for 5-8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the boiling water. The batter will be very thin. Pour it evenly into the prepared pans.
  7. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes.
  8. Test with a wooden skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done.

Chocolate Frosting


Butter : 1/2 cup (113 gms or 1 stick)

Cocoa Powder : 2/3 cup

Powdered Sugar : 3 cups

Milk : 1/3 cup

Vanilla : 1 tsp


  1. Melt butter, stir in the cocoa.
  2. Add powdered sugar and milk alternatively, beating to a spreading consistency.
  3. Stir in vanilla. Add more milk ,in teaspoonfuls, if needed.


I didn’t melt the butter. I chose to soften it and beat it with sugar, using a hand mixer.

I had some left over Icing from last time. So I mixed a bit of the chocolate icing with it to get a lighter shade and used it for the borders, flowers and writing.

*Found out that this is the Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake.

By the way, if you are wondering which vacation class I am sending Bebo to, let me tell you that my parents are here to happily share the ‘vacation burden’ (they don’t look at it as burden). And once my parents leave, Harry’s parents will be coming to spend some quality time with their grandson. So thanks to both set of grand parents, my vacation time is going to be nice and smooth and Bebo’s vacation is going to be vacation class free :).

Linking this to the Chocolate Recipes hosted by My Culinary Creations.

Lady’s ‘Figure’ Kichadi

Yeah, you read it right. Its Lady’s ‘Figure’, not finger – at least that’s how it was labelled in the supermarket.

My neighbor, who saw this, pointed it out to the sales girls there. The girls confidently said that its the right spelling. Having the sense not to argue,  my neighbor moved on to the next item ‘Bottem Guard’,or bitter gourd as the rest of us know it. The rest of the items were labelled correctly. I wish there was a picture of it to share!

Back to the Kichadi, this is an easy side dish. I use the microwave method, which is really easier than the stove top method. The only way to make it even easier (don’t think I didn’t explore it!) is to call up your mom and ask her to cook it for you. Since that is not an option for me (mom is in Trivandrum), I will stick to the microwave method.


Vendakka/Okra/ Lady’s Finger : 1/4 kg (about 15), cut into fine rounds

Coconut : 1/4 cup

Mustard seeds : 1/2 tsp

Jeera/Cumin : 1/2 tsp

Green Chillies : 1

Curd/Yogurt : 1 cup

Mustard seeds : 1tsp, for seasoning

Red chillies :1, for seasoning

Curry leaves : a few

Oil: 1-2 tsp, to saute

Salt: to taste


  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add the okra to it. Cook, stirring occasionally till okra is cooked. You can close with a lid for a minute or two in between, to fasten the cooking process.
  2. Turn off the heat once its cooked. If possible, cook till the okra is crisp. Keep aside.
  3. Grind together the coconut, mustard seeds, jeera and green chillies with a bit of water, into a smooth paste.
  4. Add this mixture to the yogurt, add salt and mix nicely.
  5. When its serving time, mix the yogurt mixture and the okra nicely.
  6. Heat oil and season with mustard, curry leaves and red chillies.
  7. Add the kichadi to the pan and let it cook for a minute before serving.
  8. Serve hot with rice.


The crispy okra will go soft when mixed with curd. So, you need to mix it only at the time of serving. You can even season the yogurt mixture and keep aside, so that all you have to do is mix okra to it at the time of serving.

Easier Method:

  1. Add a spoonful or two of oil to the okra and microwave for about 8-10 minutes, stirring once in between.
  2. If its not crisp by then, keep for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add to the yogurt & coconut mixture at the time of serving.

Kadhi Pakoda

True life incident :

Person A (in his late teens) goes to his college farewell party and starts off with parathas. No one seems to take any notice of him for sometime. After a while, there is a buzz around where he is sitting. Why? Cos he is at his 17th or 18th paratha!! Not an easy feat. His friends recognize the ‘talent’ and respectfully bow in front of him. Soon after Person A finishes his dinner, his friends inquire about the secret behind his bottomless pit of a stomach. And you know Person A’s reply?? “Me? I am nothing. You should watch my big brother eat!! I don’t come anywhere close by”!!!!!!

Person A and his big brother, both of whom I am very closely related to, LOVE Gujarati food. So you can imagine the terror when they go to a Gujarati restaurant for Thali(Unlimited Meals). I have seen the wonder, and after sometime resentment, and after some more time terror, in the faces of waiters serving the thali.

Anyway, all that was long back. Now, both of them, in their late twenties and early thirties, can hardly finish four chappathis at a time. But every time I pass by a Gujarati restaurant, these things flash by my mind :).

Here is the recipe for Kadhi Pakoda (my version), which they serve in almost all Gujarati thalis.

Pakoda Ingredients:

Bengal gram flour (Besan/Kadala Mavu) : 1/2 cup

Onion : 1, finely chopped

Chilli powder : 1/2 tsp

Salt : to taste

Water, for preparing the batter

Oil : to deep fry


  1. Mix everything, except the oil for frying, together.
  2. Add water, little by little, to prepare a thick batter.
  3. Heat oil. Once the oil is hot, drop teaspoonfuls of the prepared batter.
  4. Deep fry and keep aside on a napkin.

Kadhi Ingredients:

Sour curd : 2 cups

Water : 2 cups

Bengal gram flour (Besan/Kadala Mavu) : 1 1/2 tbsp, heaped

Turmeric powder : 1/4 tsp

Chilli powder : 1/2 tsp

Asafetida powder : a pinch

Ginger : 1 ‘ piece, chopped fine

Garlic : 4 to 5 pods, chopped fine

Green chillies  : 1 or 2, very finely chopped

Curry leaves : a few


  1. Mix everything (except curry leaves) together nicely. There shouldn’t be any lumps in the batter.
  2. Heat this in low flame for about 15 minutes, stirring in between, till the gravy thickens. The Kadhi shouldn’t boil.
  3. Drop the pakodas in the Kadi and cook for a minute or two.
  4. Add curry leaves and remove from heat.
  5. You can season this with cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, if you wish to.

Dil Chahta hai

and my cauliflower curry…

Have you seen the movie Ratatouille? There is a flashback scene, where in the food critic Anton Ego is taken back to his childhood days when he eats Ratatouille.

Similar to that, every time I see a dry cauliflower curry, it takes me back to the day we saw Dil Chahta Hai.

Flash back details:

  • Year:  2001
  • Status: Unmarried, living with room mates and working in IT field

Three of us were supposed to go. Me and another sleeping beauty, slept through the entire morning and left all the work to Miss M. The movie was at around 1 or 1.30 PM – So, Poor Miss M, ended up cooking our brunch, waking us up, making sure that we had food and generally seeing to it that we reach the theater well fed (we would be cranky otherwise), and on time. Our jaws dropped open when we saw that she had booked a call taxi (point to point taxi, which was a whole new thing then). Tickets were sold out by the time we reached the place and we had to buy it in black for Rs. 150/- ( three times the ticket price). When we got in, the movie had started and the first thing we saw was Akshay Khanna’s close up shot and the exclamation was “150 muthalayi” (Well worth the 150 Rupees)!!!!

Now, back to the cauliflower curry. This was what Miss M had cooked for our brunch. My version is not half as good as hers, but still I keep trying.

Simple Cauliflower Curry by rajanis_18


Cauliflower – 1 medium, cut into small florets

Onion – 1, chopped fine

Tomato – 1 or 2, chopped fine

Chilli powder – 1 tsp

Coriander powder – 1 tsp

Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp

Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp

Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp

Urad dal – 1 tsp

Curry leaves, a few

Oil – 1 -2 tsp

Salt, to taste

Method :

  1. Heat oil in a pan and when its hot, add the mustard. When it splutters, add the urad dal and curry leaves.
  2. Add the chopped onions and fry till it turns transparent.
  3. Add the chopped tomato and fry till it turns soft.
  4. Add all the powders (chilli, coriander, turmeric, garam masala). Add salt and fry for a minute or two.
  5. Add the cauliflower florets and mix nicely.
  6. Fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring now and then.
  7. Add about 1/4 cup water, cover the pan and cook on a low flame till cauliflower is done, about 4-5 minutes.
  8. Switch off once the cauliflower is cooked and serve with rice and sambar.

Easier Version:

  1. Cover and cook the cauliflower florets in Microwave for about 6-8 minutes. It should be cooked, but shouldn’t be mushy.
  2. Heat oil add the spices and salt.
  3. Add the (almost) cooked cauliflower and mix nicely.
  4. Cook for 3-4 minutes, till the flavors blend in and the cauliflower is completely cooked.
  5. Serve with rice and sambar.


C for Cake

cakes by rajanis_18

Birthdays are always special. You feel excited for your close friends’ birthdays too- especially if you get to bake a cake for them.

Two of my close friends are celebrating their birthdays today! I baked a cake for my friend in Chennai and am sending my wishes to the one overseas. One of them worked with me for a long time, the other one was my room mate for a long time. They are both as close to me as one can get. So they will eat anything I cook or bake ;-)

So here is to Friendship- to birthdays – to cakes!

Recipe for a simple yellow cake.


Flour – 1 1/2 cups, sifted

Sugar – 1 cup

Butter – 1/2 cup (about 115 gms or 1 stick)

Eggs – 2, medium

Baking powder – 1 1/2 tsp

Milk – 1/2 cup

Vanilla Essence – 1/2 tsp

Salt – a pinch


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Grease an 8″ round pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a big mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy(I use my hand mixer for this).
  4. Beat eggs separately. Add it to the butter-sugar mix and continue beating for a minute or two.
  5. Add the flour and milk alternatively and keep beating in low speed. Add vanilla essence.
  6. Pour into the greased pan, level it and bake for 25- 30 minutes.
  7. Check for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer into the center of the cake. If it comes out dry or with a few crumbs, the cake is done. Else bake for 5 more minutes.

Ingredients for Butter cream Icing:

Butter – 3/4 cup (175 gms or 1 1/2 sticks)

Icing sugar – 2 1/4 cups

Milk  – 2 tbsp (optional)

Food coloring


  1. Beat the butter in a big mixing bowl(I used my hand mixer).
  2. Slowly incorporate icing sugar until well blended.
  3. Add milk, if necessary and continue beating until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add a drop or two of the required food coloring and beat until well mixed.

How I did it:

  1. I made the cake the previous day and wrapped it in two layers of grease-proof  paper(butter paper).
  2. Then I put it in a zip-lock cover and kept it in the freezer overnight.
  3. I made the butter cream icing the next day and decorated the frozen cake.
  4. I left the decorated cake to thaw itself out for about two hours.
  5. Sometimes the cake ‘sweats’ out. Its fine. This time, how ever, it didn’t.
  6. Icing over a frozen cake is easier and the cake turns out to be very moist.